Ask any revered culinarian today about their one piece of advice, and chances are, they’ll advise you to continue seeking out some kind of culinary education and growing your skill set. Just because you’ve graduated culinary school or declared yourself a professional chef doesn’t mean you’ve completely exited education forever.
In fact, celebrity chef and author Myra Kornfeld once said that cooking is a lifelong journey, and you can continue to add recipes, pointers, and new techniques to your personal cookbook. To aid you in your continuous culinary education journey, here are five ways to advance your skill set.
1. Join a Professional Chef Group
As with any job, the culinary world offers a number of professional groups to join. This might be an ideal way to keep up-to-date with modern food trends and keep your food business relevant.
That list includes the Association of Professional Chefs, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and the American Culinary Federation, among many others.
Some professional organizations may even offer special annual conferences or training courses. These groups might also connect you with fellow chefs, who may not only provide networking opportunities but offer more valuable resources and industry insight.
2. Consider New Educational Opportunities
Some professional chefs rise in the kitchen ranks without attending culinary school, and simply grow their skills “on the job.” It’s certainly possible to potentially start as a line cook and receive on-the-job training that covers techniques and recipes you may need to progress in your career. Then, with time and dedication, you might elevate to become a professional chef.
However, if you didn’t attend culinary school in the first place, you might feel eager to sink your teeth into more in-depth knowledge that might not be 100% accessible on the job. The good news is that if you yearn to devour more education and perhaps keep your full-time job as a working professional chef, it might just be possible with Escoffier’s culinary arts online programs.
Refine Your Skill Set
At Escoffier, there are a variety of flexible, in-person, and online diploma and degree options available that cover a breadth of fundamental skills and more advanced curriculum.
For example, the online Culinary Arts degree program is completely designed for full-time working professionals. Along with the foundational curriculum, students explore the most current farm-to-table techniques, recipe costing, business planning, contemporary nutrition, and more.
Escoffier also offers additional culinary education for chefs that include plant-based culinary arts, holistic nutrition & wellness diplomas and degrees, plus non-degree enthusiast cooking classes—but it doesn’t stop there!
If you hold dreams of launching your very own food business, whether it’s a thriving restaurant or even a food truck, Escoffier now offers a brand new Food Entrepreneurship program! All of the coursework is intentionally designed to help jumpstart your business plan and set your vision into motion.
Also, keep in mind that these courses are instructed by renowned Chef Instructors who keep a pulse on the most contemporary kitchen trends and methods. This type of accredited education may facilitate inspiration and deeper growth for current chefs enrolled in these programs.
“The quality of chef instructors is so good. It’s very personal, they really join hands with you one-on-one, they talk to you, and they walk you through every step of the program. I could reach out to any Chef Instructor whenever I needed. It’s never-ending, I keep learning each and every time I am in need of knowledge from Escoffier.”*
Arnold Safari, Owner of Chef Safari’s African Cuisine; Online Culinary Arts graduate
3. Cook Meals For Yourself
Some chefs will go home after the end of a 12-hour shift and order takeout. Others will cook breakfast or dinner for themselves no matter what. While rest and relaxation are vital to managing stress, cooking at home might prove to be the perfect way to keep expanding your skills.
Personal cooking is a time for growth, to try new things without the pressure of hungry patrons or time constraints. If you make mistakes while whipping up a new recipe, you can take the time to explore what went wrong. If nothing else, cooking for your own enjoyment can remind you why you became a chef in the first place, and that’s often enough to provide motivation and keep you hungry for new knowledge.
4. Seek Out New Restaurants
Consider this tip to be strictly “research and discovery” when it comes to culinary education for chefs. As a professional culinarian, it’s vital to always stay in the know and scout out new, emerging restaurants. This is a prime opportunity to put on your investigative hat, and bring a notepad with you.
You might want to pay close attention to overall branding, menu design, food presentation, specific ingredients, hospitality, etc.
Consider the following questions while dining out.
- What did the chefs and front-of-house staff do right?
- What are some areas of improvement?
- How can I garner inspiration for what works and put my own spin on it?
Dining at new restaurants is also good for your mindset. Instead of potentially viewing a new restaurant as “competition,” you may see it as an excellent personal and professional growth opportunity.
5. Step Into a New Kitchen
For chefs who desire to better their skill set and always remain relevant, one of the most effective ways to do this is to shadow other chefs in their sacred environments. Just like dining in a new restaurant, this enables chefs to potentially examine new cooking methods, techniques, kitchen flow, and more.
At Escoffier, students are required to complete one or two hands-on industry externships (depending on the program). The externship is the ideal time to challenge your own technical aptitude, forge lifelong industry contacts, and again, take notes on how you, as a chef, might uplevel your execution in the kitchen.
“I am proud of where I am today in my career. It’s been a long road to get to a management position as a Sous Chef. Long hours, sweat shed, onion tears cried, and blood spilled (those pesky accidental cuts)! All in all I’m always still learning and it’s the best part about the culinary industry.”*
Dannie White III, Escoffier Online Culinary Graduate
Continue to Grow Your Culinary Career
When you decide to pursue a career path in culinary arts, it usually requires grit, tenacity, and an unwavering commitment to education. Along with networking and keeping close tabs on the latest and greatest food techniques, chefs who make a concerted effort to always seek education and go deeper with their culinary expertise usually continue to excel.
If you’re ready to advance your culinary skills and explore culinary education for chefs, contact our admissions department to discover more about the educational opportunities available!
Curious to discover more about culinary education? Try these articles next:
- College Not For You? Try Culinary School.
- Is Culinary School a Waste of Money?
- What Is It Like to Study at Culinary School?
*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.
This article was originally published on May 8, 2016, and has since been updated.